Thursday, December 06, 2012

Arlington goes it alone on streetcar study

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Arlington County, Va., continues to pursue plans for two streetcar lines, both meeting at Washington Metrorail's Pentagon City Station—but the county will pursue both, for now, without the help of neighboring Alexandria, Va.

Arlington is proceeding without seeking federal funding for its portion of the project, in part to expedite the process by avoiding any requirement for a federally funded Alternatives Analysis.

By contrast, Alexandria, which seeks federal funding assistance, has withdrawn from any immediate role in a U.S. Route 1 streetcar study, forcing Arlington County to weigh assuming more of the cost of a study being conducted by URS Corp., hired in 2010 for planning and engineering work.

An existing contract, roughly $3.6 million, reportedly has been renegotiated to eliminate any work within Alexandria itself cutting the price to $2.8 million. Alexandria had paid $314,930 to URS prior to its withdrawal from the study, leaving Arlington to pay $2.4 million, or about $664,070 more than it had previously set aside.

The Arlington Board will be asked to approve that funding during a meeting this Saturday. The additional funding would come from the Transportation Capital Fund, a pot sourced with an add-on commercial and industrial property tax.

As recently as last June, the Alexandria City Council, in a 6-1 vote, appeared to affirm its participation in the Route 1 Corridor Streetcar Conversion Project.

But a city press release dated June 16 offered a caveat, saying, "Alexandria is currently working to finalize the proposed new Potomac Yard Metrorail station through the ongoing Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) study process. The City will begin the streetcar conversion project's second phase in 2014 by pursuing an environmental study and Alternatives Analysis to assess the conversion from bus rapid transit to streetcar in Alexandria. This process is necessary for the City to preserve its federal funding options. Alexandria's streetcar extension could be operable in 2021."

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